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June 5, 2014 4:45 pm
Why is goodhearted liberal cinema sometimes so dumb? Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, based on the true scandal of an Oakland transport cop’s causeless killing of an unarmed black youth on New Year’s Day 2009, portrays the preludial hours in victim Oscar Grant’s life. It’s a pious, virtually plotless plod through a day’s good deeds: throwing away drugs, helping strangers, loving his daughter. The film sets him up for saint-or-martyr status before we even reach the title locale. So the question logically prompted is: “If the victim had been a trashy crook, the killing would have been more okay?” With a style as vacuous and poorly focused as the notional substance, it’s a strong subject wasted in a weak, ill-thought response.
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